Something I’ve learned during the last year and a half as part of the Kensington Arts team is that one of our values is excellence. We want everything to be the best we can possibly make it and we hold our services and churches to a high standard, and we do this for the [one]. As a recovering perfectionist I’ve struggled to really wrap my mind around this value. As a church, isn’t loving and serving people the most important value?
Excellence is one of those things where we appreciate it when we see it: a well-made car, an excellent play or performance, a beautiful piece of art, an honored surgeon, etc. Why do you think people buy iPhones and Apple products? We’ve come to expect excellence from them. So why do I feel so weird about the words “excellence” and “church” within the same sentence? During one of my drives downstate to visit family I decided to ask someone for their thoughts on this topic- God. Over the next 3 hours of my car trip He spoke to me about what excellence means to Him and what it means for me in my ministry and my personal walk. Through that conversation He asked me to meditate on 3 things:
1) Good Enough
The very first thing God did in this conversation was to take me back to my high school and college days of essays and assignments, and how many times out of frustration and desperation to be done I would listen to a small but intriguing voice that would say, “That’s good enough”. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? That phrase, “good enough”, essentially means that we know our work is at a presentable level, but we consciously know that it’s not our best work. God reminded me that He never once looks at me and says, “Eh, she’s good enough”. Philippians 1:6 says “that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God is constantly working on us, we are His masterpiece, and He will not rest until we are completed. He will not settle for “good enough”, He’s going for perfect! So when I hear that little voice try to convince me that I can settle at mediocre I will not ignore it, but instead recognize that my work can be even better, and to do what it takes to make it my best because I’m really working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).
The next thing that God showed me in regard to excellence is how it’s actually a way by which we’re meant to live our walk. The gospels are full of stories of how Jesus modeled excellence by loving excellently, healing excellently, speaking truth excellently, teaching excellently, forgiving excellently, even sacrificing excellently. Everything Jesus did was with excellence, because he is excellent. If our goal is to be like Jesus, then striving for excellence comes with the package. God knows we’ll make mistakes, but He doesn’t want us to be lazy in our walk because we know we’ll mess up from time to time. My preference should be to make a mistake trying to make my work better than lazily leave something as it is. Worshipping God is much more than singing songs on Sunday mornings, God’s favorite worship is when we live for Him and give Him our everything, and that includes our best. Everything we do should be in excellence. So let’s love excellently, use our gifts and talents excellently, serve excellently, share the gospel excellently, obey excellently, and seek our Savior’s heart excellently.
3) Loving Others
One of my biggest struggles with valuing excellence is that I fear it will get in our way of loving others, that we can love the product more than the people. The most surprising thing God shared with me is that by encouraging excellence in others you are actually loving them well! In fact, it actually shows a lack of love to knowingly allow people to stay where they are instead of encouraging them to grow. Think about it. How would you feel if someone close to you or your leader didn’t think you were worth their time to invest in? If someone said to you, “You’re good enough”? Doesn’t feel good, does it? You might also be thinking, “Yeah, but it also doesn’t feel good when someone is constantly critiquing me.” I agree, I don’t like that either, and there is a dark side to excellence when it becomes militaristic, when the value is placed in the product rather than the people, when there’s too much truth and not enough grace. After spending this time with God, however, I’ve begun to see that there is a way to love others by encouraging them to grow, by encouraging excellence. Jesus modeled it perfectly with truth and grace. Sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth. It stings, but the truth is what is going to help us to grow as long as someone comes alongside of us with grace. Just as God doesn’t settle for “good enough” with us, so we should not settle with those that God has placed within our sphere of influence.
So I guess the moral of my story is, when you have 3 hours of drive time to kill and you have something that’s bugging you, be careful who you talk to… just kidding! In all seriousness, I’m thankful to work for a church that desires to be excellent in everything that it does, from Sunday services to making and growing disciples and much more! And I’m grateful that God challenged my heart on this and helped me to see things from His perspective, because He’s always right (seriously, ALWAYS)! Finally, I’m thankful for a God who never looks at His beloved creation and says, “that’s good enough”, that His love is so great for us that He will give everything, including His son, to make us excellent- perfect even! As His church, when we think about the new families that walk in each Sunday and the thousands in our community who have yet to know Christ, let us strive to do everything with excellence.
Jenn Bander | Associate Service Director